Last Sunday, the crowd at Blind Willie's was in a state of high excitement after hearing Sandra Hall, Francine Reed, Sweet Betty, The Breeze Kings, and Roy Lee Johnson. The musical standard was set very high when Chicago Joe Jones took the stage with his band. It was no surprise to those familiar with Chicago Joe and his Rock 'n Blues Camp that they were kids. But these kids were boys who obviously weren't even teens yet! How good could they be?
It turns out they could be very, very good indeed. And not just good for 11-year-olds, as I later discovered they are, but good by any standard for any age. Chicago Joe Jones, Red Sargent, and the rest of the staff of the Rock 'n Blues Camp really are shaping the future of Atlanta blues and rock.
Sunday, it was Max Patterson on vocals, Ben Wulkan on guitar, and Matthew Kessler on bass. At first I was most impressed with Wulkan as he was playing some very intricate and impressive licks, even taking on "Purple Haze: and conquering it. . But then I realized how solid Kessler was on bass and, while at 11 Peterson's voice does not yet have the real vocal texture for blues, his timing and phrasing were perfect and he did a great job interacting with the audience.
The camp started in 2005 when some of the parents of Chicago Joe Jones' students thought his teaching skills should be available to more kids and the idea was born. During the summer, the camp accepts students at the late beginner to intermediate skill levels who are in middle school or high school. The staff works with them to hone their skills as musicians and as performers.
Lynn Kessler, mom to Matthew, emailed me: "It's been great to see them grow as musicians, and working with Chicago Joe and Red has given them great opportunities to do so. It was very exciting to get to see them play at Blind Willie's, which to me, as an Atlanta native, is a huge thing indeed!"
Ben's father Mark said, "Ben loves playing guitar, and he loves the blues. Joe is fantastic and truly is setting the stage for the future of the blues. "
When camp is not in session, Chicago Joe Jones and his students play at regular jams in Decatur and monthly student showcases in Tucker. Visit the website to find out more about Chicago Joe, the camp, and the jams and showcases. You will be amazed to see what kids can do with the right teachers.
I expect to be writing about students and former students from Chicago Joe's camp for a long time to come!